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If you have this condition, you’re more likely to believe “pseudo-profound bullsh*t"

Researchers find out why some people believe utter BS.

Pixabay
  • Scientists discover that people who have high apophenia are more likely to believe "pseudo-profound bullshit".
  • Apophenia is a tendency to see patterns and connections that aren't really there.
  • The condition could be a precursor to more serious mental illness.

If you've been feeling snarky about the motivational posts some of your friends keep posting on social media, there's a new study for you. It turns out, as researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia discovered, there is a condition that makes people more susceptible to so-called "pseudo-profound bullshit statements"(PPBS).

The name of this affliction is "apophenia," which means having a tendency to find patterns or connections where none are present. The scientists concluded that people with high apophenia couldn't differentiate well between statements that were actually profound and those that were pseudo-profound.

The study's co-author Timothy Bainbridge of the University of Melbourne was drawn to PPBS expressions for "the strangely alluring sense that they should mean something, while not meaning anything," as he related in an interview.

The researchers carried out two studies that involved 297 college students, who had to read and rate various statements – some of them genuinely profound, some more everyday, and others high in pseudo-profundity. If you're wondering, examples of such included gems like "Hidden meaning transforms unparalleled abstract beauty" and "Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena."

An instance of a truly profound sentence from the study was "The creative adult is the child who survived." Certainly, one could argue there is some subjectivity in judging what is truly meaningful.

The participants whose measures of apophenia were higher were also the ones more likely to rate PPBS statements as more profound. Conversely, those who had higher intelligence scores, generally found pseudo-profound BS less appealing and were able to pick out the truer ideas.

"I think the take-home from this paper is that people who find PPBS profound do so more because of an inability to discriminate the profound from the pseudo-profound rather than because of a general propensity to find all statements profound," Bainbridge told PsyPost.

The German psychiatrist Klaus Conrad coined the term "apophenia" in 1958, which he defined as "unmotivated seeing of connections [accompanied by] a specific feeling of abnormal meaningfulness." He saw it as an early stage of delusional thought leading to schizophrenia.

You can read the new study "Openness/Intellect and Susceptibility to Pseudo‐Profound Bullshit: A Replication and Extension" in the European Journal of Personality.

Besides Bainbridge, the study was also authored by Joshua A. Quinlan, Raymond A. Mar, and Luke D. Smillie.

Check out also this great lecture from another team working on understanding people's propensity to believe bullshit --

Hulu's original movie "Palm Springs" is the comedy we needed this summer

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.

Gear
  • Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
  • As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
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Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

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Economists show how welfare programs can turn a "profit"

What happens if we consider welfare programs as investments?

A homeless man faces Wall Street

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A recently published study suggests that some welfare programs more than pay for themselves.
  • It is one of the first major reviews of welfare programs to measure so many by a single metric.
  • The findings will likely inform future welfare reform and encourage debate on how to grade success.
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Unhappy at work? How to find meaning and maintain your mental health

Finding a balance between job satisfaction, money, and lifestyle is not easy.

Unhappy at work? How to find meaning and maintain your mental health
Videos
  • When most of your life is spent doing one thing, it matters if that thing is unfulfilling or if it makes you unhappy. According to research, most people are not thrilled with their jobs. However, there are ways to find purpose in your work and to reduce the negative impact that the daily grind has on your mental health.
  • "The evidence is that about 70 percent of people are not engaged in what they do all day long, and about 18 percent of people are repulsed," London Business School professor Dan Cable says, calling the current state of work unhappiness an epidemic. In this video, he and other big thinkers consider what it means to find meaning in your work, discuss the parts of the brain that fuel creativity, and share strategies for reassessing your relationship to your job.
  • Author James Citrin offers a career triangle model that sees work as a balance of three forces: job satisfaction, money, and lifestyle. While it is possible to have all three, Citrin says that they are not always possible at the same time, especially not early on in your career.
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